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For Hard Core Rock ‘N’ Rollers Only

14 Mar

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Living in far west London, now and again I do find myself missing my old life back in Southern California. At such times I often reach for stacks of old music fanzines accrued in the 80’s as a teen – Flipside, Maximum Rocknroll, Forced Exposure – to remind me just where I came from. And while these mags were great, no single body of work ever summed up the Southern California suburban rocker experience quite like BACK DOOR MAN magazine did.

BDM magazine first leapt into print in the North Torrance area of the South Bay in early 1975, as edited by Fred Patterson AKA Phast Phreddie. By all accounts, this was a fucking tough time to be a true r’n’r believer: it was in that no-man’s land between the hippie and punk wars, when PETER FRAMPTON and THE EAGLES ruled airwaves coast to coast. Fred somehow managed to publish 15 issues during that mid/late 70’s vacuum, and fully 3/4 of these predate the initial July 1977 issue of the far more renowned, Hollywood-based Slash magazine.

BDM writers (Fred, Don Waller, D.D. Faye, Bob Myers, Thom Gardner, Don Underwood) were barely grown up themselves, and their writing reflects this. It was gonzo bedroom fandom at it’s most manical: the logical offspring of Creem mag letters section ranting, Lester Bangs carburetor dungpile run-off, and barely legible high school yearbook scribblings. The graphic layout was handset and looked it, the B&W photos all starkly contrasted, and the text as dense as rush-hour traffic on the Harbor Freeway. Subject matter spanned 2-chord 60’s wonders (BLUE CHEER, DOORS, SEEDS) tasty glam/bubblegum (SWEET, THE RASBERRIES, DWIGHT TWILLY) hard arena rock (BÖC, THIN LIZZY, KISS) not to mention exciting new “punk” sounds starting to leak out back then (IGGY, PATTI SMITH, THE DICTATORS).

While the Slash crew were stylistically aligned with punk from the get-go, BDM were earlier and had far too much love and appreciation of the entire spectrum of rock n roll – and lowbrow culture in general – to ever sever connections to the hairier end of 70’s life. This meant a trippy interview with PERE UBU might follow ernest gushings about Night Moves-era BOB SEGER and insightful musings about the current state of pornography. Most intriguingly to my South Baycentric mindset, BDM always gave lots of coverage to all manner of local acts (anybody remember BLIND OWL, SPIKE, or RED ASPHALT?) then playing around in those very same suburbs I grew up in. Reading these mags a decade+ later in the late 80’s, it had the neat effect of helping me believe my local scene and shitty garage band was, potentially, as glorious & meaningful as any Haight/Ashbury or Led Zeppelin ever was. Thanks, BDM.

New Wavers who pitted themselves against all that came before must’ve invariably turned up their noses at BDM‘s inclusive aesthetic (punk + metal + soul + alcohol + local taco stand). But I’m confident Hard Core Rock ‘N’ Rollers knew just who had Shake Appeal. In retrospect, it wasn’t Slash but BDM who foreshadowed the resurgence of hard and heavy rock within post-hardcore independent music scenes. For this, they earn my undying respect.

And Back Door Man are now on MySpace! Do check out the amazing first BDM issue now online here. Of course the South Bay Rock ‘N’ Roll feature found therein is my fave, where mention is made of a wild, late 60’s party/crash pad known as The Third Eye in Palos Verdes(!), and D.D. Faye’s band ATOMIC KID are said to sound “like a cross between The Count Five, Sparks, and Robin Trower”. Yeah!